Wednesday 10 March 2021 3:01 pm

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish says Champions League expansion plans will have 'devastating effect' on English football

Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish has called plans to expand the Champions League and change the qualifying criteria “very concerning”.

Europe’s top football clubs and governing body Uefa have proposed an overhaul that would create 100 more fixtures and allocate extra places on the basis of historical success from 2024.

“With the assault on the calendar we are talking about a transfer of value from the domestic leagues to European competition. I think it is very concerning,” said Parish.

“We seem to be expected to accept these proposals as they are not as bad as they could have been.

“I can’t quite buy into that thinking that we should be ever so grateful that it’s only an extra 100 games. This will have a quite devastating effect on domestic competition in England.”

Parish spoke out at a Club Advisory Platform meeting convened by umbrella organisation European Leagues.

The online meeting came a day after Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus and president of the influential European Club Association (ECA), said the proposals could be agreed this month.

Later on Tuesday, Agnelli watched Juventus exit the Champions League against Porto in the sort of surprise result the reforms seem to seek to minimise.

Parish criticised the ECA, saying it was “run for the benefit of a tiny amount of members yet has an extraordinarily powerful influence”.

What are the proposed changes to the Champions League? What is the Swiss model?

Uefa and the ECA favour a proposed “Swiss model” of reforms for the Champions League.

The current group stage, featuring eight groups of four teams who play six times each, would be replaced by one single league in which each team plays 10 times.

Of the four extra places, two would go to clubs based on their Uefa coefficient, which is itself based on historical success in European competition.

“Last year, as it’s proposed, Leicester would have finished fifth in the Premier League but two clubs below them [Tottenham and Arsenal] would have qualified for the Champions League based on some arbitrary period of success in Europe,” said Parish.

The Champions League is likely to expand from 32 to 36 teams, creating dozens more fixtures, from 2024
The Champions League is likely to expand from 32 to 36 teams, creating dozens more fixtures, from 2024 (Getty Images)

“We are seeing, with the co-efficient and the calendar principles that are being attempted to be ingrained, so that next time things can be changed even more and domestic competition in the end takes a secondary seat to a European super league.”

A European Super League by stealth?

European Leagues argues that an expansion of the Champions League should be capped at two extra games per team, not the proposed four.

It wants three of the four extra places to go to the champions of smaller nations, who currently have to go through additional qualifying rounds, and a more equitable distribution of revenue.

Parish said the changes amounted to another move towards a mooted European Super League, rumours of which repeatedly pressure Uefa into reforming the competition.

Real Madrid and Barcelona have been reported to back a breakaway European Super League, while Agnelli was coy this week on his position.

European Leagues chief Lars Christer Olsson said: “I think if there is anybody or clubs trying to organise a Super League they should be thrown out of association football.”

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